Collection of Sacred Hymns, 1835

In July 1830 at Harmony, Pennsylvania, JS dictated a revelation for his wife Emma just days after her baptism. Among other counsel, she was instructed to “make a selection of Sacred Hymns as it shall be given thee which is pleasing unto me to be had in my Church for my Soul delighteth in the song of the heart yea the song of the heart righteous is a prayer unto me & it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (Revelation, July 1830–C [D&C 25])
This revelation gave divine approval to the inclusion of music in church meetings. Most early Latter-day Saint converts came from religious traditions that included hymn singing, and records indicate this practice was continued in the new church even before the publication of a hymnal. Emma’s initial role appears to have been deciding which existing hymns would be appropriate expressions of worship. At a 30 April 1832 meeting of the Literary Firm, the church’s publishing arm, in Independence, Missouri, it was ordered “that the Hymns selected by sister Emma be corrected by br. William W. Phelps.” (Minute Book 2, 30 Apr. 1832) In June 1832, the church’s newspaper, The Evening and the Morning Star, began publishing Protestant hymn texts with doctrinal revisions by Phelps, the paper’s editor. In 1833, new Latter-day Saint hymns began appearing in the Star.
The church’s printing office in Missouri was destroyed by mob violence in July 1833. A new press was functional in Kirtland, Ohio, by December 1833, and the church renewed various publishing efforts, including a newspaper, a compilation of revelations, and a collection of hymns. At a meeting of the church’s presidency on 14 September 1835, it was “decided that Sister Emma Smith proceed to make a selection of sacred hymns, according to the revilation, and that President W. W. Phelps be appointed to revise and arrange them for printing.” (Minute Book 1, 14 Sept. 1835) Phelps was a boarder at the JS and Emma Smith home during these months, and wrote to his wife, Sally, in Liberty, Missouri, on 14 November that his time was “all taken in the printing office,” and “the hymn book is not likely to progress as fast as I wish, but we are all kept busy.” (William W. Phelps, Kirtland, OH, to Sally Phelps, Liberty, MO, 14 Nov. 1835, in Historical Department, Journal History of the Church, 14 Nov. 1835, CHL)
Although it bears a publication date of 1835, A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of the Latter Day Saints was apparently not available until early 1836. The title page notes that the hymns were “Selected by Emma Smith,” but Phelps also played a major role in all aspects of preparing the volume. The hymnal contains the text of ninety hymns, divided into sections titled Sacred Hymns, Morning Hymns, Evening Hymns, Farewell Hymns, On Baptism, On Sacrament, On Marriage, and Miscellaneous. A preface and index of first lines are also included.
The hymn texts emphasize key tenets of the religion, such as building a literal Zion in Missouri and preparing for an imminent Second Coming, and reflect a strong sense of community. The publication of the hymnal was an important step in creating a distinct identity for the church and laid a foundation for the continued role of music in Latter-day Saint worship.